‘Science Says’ Sunday – COVID-19 and Socioeconomic status: A lesson

Image may contain: 4 people, including Michael Frymark and Bertha Hidalgo, people standing

From my family to yours, a very Happy Easter. Definitely counting our blessings this year, for health, finances, and all other aspects of our lives. Praying for strength and comfort for those who may be experiencing a less than happy Easter Sunday this year. 

When I began to cover COVID-19 back in January, I started to worry about the implications this novel coronavirus had for our health, our healthcare system and infrastructure, but also what it meant for the financial stability of our immediate and extended family. Would our jobs be at stake? Would everyone be taken care of? Was our money protected in case this was a ‘worst case scenario’ situation? Would my husband and I be able to carry our immediate family through safely and financially through this crisis?

Money matters are a taboo subject. We don’t like to talk about how much we make, how much we should be saving, and many of us don’t have much finance training, unless we’ve sought it out or inherited generational knowledge. Not having had the latter, I’ve made the former my priority. I’ve made it my mission to learn and talk to money whenever I can, but especially when I think it will make a difference for others. Hence the motivation for today’s post.

Science says that socioeconomic status – or our social standing, often measured as a combination of education, income and occupation – is closely tied to health outcomes and health disparities. It is one of the most prominent social determinants of health. As a health disparities researcher, first and foremost, I am here to tell you that if no one has told you to think about your wealth and income security during this pandemic, you absolutely should think about doing so. It was shocking to me to hear that despite the slowdown of Amazon shipping, and no in-store shopping, sales on social media were soaring for affiliate sales. SOARING was the exact word used. Who were all these people shopping, I thought? Can they afford to shop even though their jobs might be at risk? On the other hand, I thought, perhaps they are the lucky ones. But do they know that now is not the time to shop anyway??

I have personally taken a very conservative financial approach with our money since we went into quarantine a month ago. I’m used to re-selling all my items once I’m done using them, but as I started to see more and more stories about job losses (>10 million people have filed for unemployment), and people failing to adhere to social distancing recommendations (more people likely to get sick and die), it occurred to me, liquid money and assets are what matters most in times like these. For that matter, all the clothes, shoes, etc, that I own, do not translate into wealth if there is no one who can buy them from me! My husband and I came out of the 2008 housing crash unscathed, but there are many others who did not. In many ways, this pandemic is far worse than that housing crash, so how the markets will fare remains to be seen. Best be prepared for that worst case scenario, I thought.

So, I called upon a friend who knows more about finances than I do, to walk you through money matters during a pandemic. Why? Because in order to ensure positive health outcomes in the future, you have to secure yourself financially now. We have to narrow that inequality gap, and becoming financially savvy is one way you will be able to accomplish that. I wish I had learned some of these things when I was younger, so I’m trying to share this now with you, so that you can start off earlier than me. 🙂

Below is a post from Lauren Pearson, founder of The Wealth Edit. Her blog brings you free and paid-course content to make you financially savvy. One blog post in particular “Coronavirus and Market Volatility” really struck a chord with what I was observing as a finance novice, and thought, ‘I bet my readers would love to hear from someone like her during this time’. So with that, I bring you her wisdom, during this time of COVID-19 craziness.

Money matters during a Pandemic

We are all adjusting to a new normal – our kids are home for many of us, our spouses are home, we have a new “office,” and we are worried about our public and individual health. So how are we feeling about our money?

Last week I read that for some of us, this pandemic is like a sprinkle, and for some of us this is like a hurricane. Some have lost their jobs, some have had to lay off employees, and for the blessed few, very little is different.

If you are like me, my family is spending money on food in ways we were not before. We were big on take out, and now we cook nearly every meal. Even though I am surprised by our grocery bill, I still believe in this category we are probably saving more than we were before, which is a good thing. Add in babysitters for date nights or evening obligations, we may be feeling like our pockets are more full.

What I would like you to do is to think strategically about your money. Right now. As women, we are taught that talking about money is taboo.  What I propose to you is this doesn’t matter. Not in a pandemic. It is our responsibility to be good with money, and to educate ourselves quickly. This cultural taboo is bad for women, and puts us at a disadvantage.

Yes, I am bombarded now on Instagram with sales from my favorite stores. Tempting? Yes. Important? No. What is important is to reframe your thinking around spending. Think about the decisions you are making for the health of your family. You are more than likely social distancing, only going to “essential” stores for purchases. Think about your finances through this same lens. What is essential? What purchases are really going to enhance your life? What items will last, and do you need them?

For my family, my kids’ camp will be canceled and our trip overseas will be canceled. This will mean I have five figures coming back into my bank account. It would be tempting to feel “overfunded” and to “splurge.”

At the Wealth Edit, our private membership community, we have created a Financial Minimalism course. I encourage everyone right now to practice Financial Minimalism. Why now? First, we have time to think about it. Second, we have been cut back (online sales being the great exception) to the essentials, so now we are forced to see what is truly essential. What a gift! Use this time to your advantage. What if instead of getting better things, or our economy, gets worse? I’m not suggesting it will, but I suggest you pressure test this theory within your household. We also do a personal recession audit (along with one for business, if you are a business owner). Having some arrows in your quiver as it relates to your finances will only be helpful.

Here are a few pandemic tips for you to follow to keep your wallet and your family safe:

  • Observe your spending and income. Write it all down. Just for a week. This is called cash flow (what is coming in, what is going out). I suggest writing everything you spend down twice. Once in the notes of your phone as you are spending, and then once at night in a notebook. This will be the first step towards conscious spending. Then write “E” next to the essential spending. This will come in handy to have this awareness, in the event you have to cut in the future.
  • Do you have money coming back to you? Stimulus, refunded trips, etc? Have a plan for this money. Of course I am going to encourage you to invest these dollars. First in an emergency fund, because everyone needs 3-6 months net income in cash for harder times. Then, if there is money left, invest it.
  • Don’t fall for the online sales! Just because your favorite brand is on sale for 40% off, doesn’t mean you need anything right now. I don’t shop online after 5 p.m. Create a plan for your spending, and execute on this. Don’t spend outside of this, if possible.
  • Know your financial stuff! It’s okay not to know anything right now, but find a venue to learn. If you want to try the Wealth Edit, we will give CIA readers $14 off their first month of membership. We would love to have you – use code CIA14 at checkout. I know, counterintuitive for me to ask you to spend, but the fact is this content, if consumed carefully, could save you significant money. Plus you get an amazing community of smart and interesting women who are also committed to talking about money.

Happy Easter,


CEO, The Wealth Edit

I hope you will gain some food for thought from today’s post and find ways to build some of these tips into your own life. I know I will. I also leave you with Dr. Michael Marmot’s seminal post on income and health titled “The Influence Of Income On Health: Views Of An Epidemiologist“, should you need additional convincing that money matters indeed matter for health outcomes.

The Influence Of Income On Health: Views Of An Epidemiologist

Income is related to health in three ways: through the gross national product of countries, the income of individuals, and the income inequalities among rich nations and among geographic areas. A central question is the degree to which these associations reflect a causal association. If so, redistribution of income would improve health. This paper discusses two ways in which income could be causally related to health: through a direct effect on the material conditions necessary for biological survival, and through an effect on social participation and opportunity to control life circumstances. The fewer goods and services are provided publicly by the community, the more important individual income is for health. Under present U.S. circumstances, a policy of counteracting growing income inequalities through the tax and benefit system and of public provision appears justified.


This post was sponsored by Zoom Motorsports, however all opinions are my own. Thank you for helping me to support brands, retailers, and events I love!

Have you recovered from spring break and looking for new things to do in the coming weekends? I know we are. My family and I are super excited for the events happening this spring, including the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. My husband and I have been intentional about giving the kids more experiences locally and nationally, instead of gifting material things. They have loved the trips we have taken so far, but equally love the local events they get to experience as well.

Both my boys love race cars and competition, so I can’t wait to expose them to the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. It’s scheduled for this upcoming weekend, April 5-7, 2019. There are TONS of events happening, both for the kids and the adults.

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For the kids


Music, cornhole, giant bowling, ladder ball, kids inflatables, music and more! This will be located behind the Kamtek Public Grandstands. Coca-Cola Family Expo will be located in the Surgere Fan Zone behind the Kamtek Public Grandstands.

Gear Up Your Career features suppliers and community colleges in the state of Alabama that are looking to connect with students interested in workforce development. There will be tons of interactive STEM opportunities for kids throughout the area.

Ride the Bud’s Best Ferris Wheel to get a bird’s-eye view of the facility! $5 per ride – proceeds benefit United Ability.

Don’t miss your chance to get autographs from drivers of the NTT IndyCar Series!Friday, April 5 | 1pm- 2pm


The Kamtek Garage is the working area for the race teams and provides an excellent opportunity to get up close to the race cars and drivers … so bring your camera and autograph pen! Ages 15 and under receive complimentary Garage passes, courtesy of Alabama Power.


For the adults

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Join the party at the Park at one of our premier locations, Cocina at the Track. Located trackside in the heart of the Surgere Fan Zone, guests are guaranteed to have one of the best seats in the house. Cocina at the Track passes include a breakfast & lunch buffet, afternoon hors d’oeuvres, and a complimentary bar, courtesty of local favorite, Cocina Superior. Cocina at the Track passes also include Grounds Admission + Kamtek Garage Pass.

All children over the age of 3 must purchase a Cocina at the Track pass. Call 1.877.332.7804 or email tickets@zoommoto.com to purchase Cocina at the Track Kids tickets.

For information regarding group or corporate ticket packages, contact Sandra Megerdigian at sandra@zoommoto.com | 205-977-9350.



Experience the ultimate, trackside hospitality located on the 2nd floor of Race Control overlooking the start/finish line. Paddock Club passes include premium:

  • Access to 2nd and 3rd floor viewing patios
  • Panoramic views of the on-track action
  • VIP parking
  • Upscale breakfast, lunch, afternoon hors d’oeuvres, and bar service
  • Passes also include Grounds Admission + Kamtek Garage Pass

All children over the age of 3 must purchase a Paddock Club pass. Call 1.877.332.7804 or email tickets@zoommoto.com to purchase Paddock Club kids tickets.



This unique 5K will be Friday, April 5th at the world-class Barber Motorsports Park during the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama weekend. The course is 5K certified and will be chip-timed. It is the same route as the one that will challenge the world’s fastest drivers on Sunday, April 7th, during the deep south’s only IndyCar event. Numerous IndyCar drivers have already committed to run in this 5K. Participants will receive a unique finisher’s medal and can enjoy a post-race social hour. Register here.


Suppliers from Alabama Crown will be sampling and selling wine and craft beer in the  HAGERTY CAR CORRAL on Saturday and Sunday. Stop by and enjoy a variety of 100+ wine & craft beers. While enjoying your favorite beverage check out the artists that will be showcasing and selling handmade art, ceramics, paintings, jewelry and more at the Grand Art Festival. This new, art-driven feature at the race will showcase exhibition booths for up to 30 talented artists and makers from the region.

The entire event schedule is listed on the event website if you’re a planner like me and looking to fill gaps in your schedule this weekend or coordinate entire days at the race track.


That’s all great, but how much is it gonna cost me??

Y’all, this event is FREE FOR KIDS!! Otherwise, for adults, it is relatively inexpensive to attend. You can plan a nice playdate for both the kids and adults and have plenty for all to do. Prices for three-day or single day admission below:

Three-Day General Admission
The Best Value!
Three-day specific tickets.
Friday General Admission
Saturday General Admission
Sunday General Admission

That sounds awesome and within my budget, but you got freebies??

YES! You’re in luck! I’m giving away a four-pack of three-day passes to one lucky winner!! That means two adults, and two adult friends/family members, and an unlimited number of kids, can attend the event. Approximately a $500 value pack of fun!

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What do you need to do to enter?? Tag the friends/family you wish to take with you on my Facebook page. That’s it! The Honda Indy Grand Prix Event team will pick a winner and announce this coming Thursday so you can make plans accordingly.

I’ll be there with the fam at some point this weekend, so even if you don’t win a pair of tickets, I hope you’ll consider attending anyway to join in on the fun. See you at the race track!
Photo credit for all imagery in this post: Jennifer Hagler Photography
yours truly, dr. b


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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

A couple weeks ago, I surveyed my Instagram friends, and a large majority were interested in a no-spend February, wherein we all commit to not spending any money on clothes, shoes, accessories, etc. No money spent on unnecessary wants; only on needs like food, utilities, gas, rent, etc. The idea is to be able to put any money you might have spent unnecessarily on clothes, etc, towards retirement, debt, and such. While initially I was quite gung-ho about the idea of not spending any money at all next month, questions starting pouring in about exceptions: What about Valentine’s Day? Birthdays? Can we use gift cards?? So I went back to my public health roots and thought about about the theories I learned about human behavior and what we think about when we consider new interventions: primarily, I thought about sustainability. WHAT IS THE GOAL HERE?

My person goal is to spend more consciously and stop spending money on food that will get thrown away because I didn’t meal plan; clothes and shoes I bought on a whim that I never wore; or makeup products I bought and didn’t like, and ended up cluttering my makeup bag until they expired; because, yes, they expire!! More to come on that.

Years ago, I read a post by Jeanette Johnson of J’s Everyday Fashion. It was the first time I’d read about setting a “clothing budget”. As you know, I was a grad student, then a post doc, and didn’t make a lot of money during either of those training periods. So budgeting was something I did out of necessity. When I became an assistant professor, I was making more money, but school loans have also kept me from over-spending. Still, one of the things I love to do is shop, and since embarking on my purging journey the past two years, I realized that some of that money might have been better spent. J’s clothing budget allows you to set aside 2-8% of your monthly salary on clothing. In general, I have followed that rule, but I could also benefit from spending less, accumulating less clutter, and buying more thoughtfully moving forward.

Okay, so if you’re still reading, you’re probably wondering: SOOOOO, are we shopping or not shopping??

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In public health, when thinking about health interventions, we often think about ensuring that outcomes will be sustainable. So I asked myself, “Is it sustainable to not shop at all for the rest of my life??” Of course not. Is the point to do this for a month and what? Save $100? No. The goal, a sustainable one, is to learn how to budget and spend mindfully. So, I’m proposing a variation of J’s clothing budget, to 1) learn how to budget; 2) ensure more mindful spending; 3) redirect more money towards other long-term goals, debt, etc.:

$60 a month for the rest of the year. YIKES!


$60 a month. How did I arrive at that number? Well, when I polled my Instagram friends, the most popular response was that many were working with about a $3000 budget (the sliding scale and other questions pictured below). If we take the lower range of J’s shopping budget percentage, then we’re looking at 2% of $3000, which equals $60. $60 a month!!

Have you recovered from the shock yet?? I’ll tell ya, once you write down every single thing you spend money on, you will think $60 is too much to spend. $60 dollars is enough to visit the Dollar Spot a couple times a month, buy a Who What Wear top from Target, and pick up a pair of shoes on clearance from TJMaxx. Not to mention a pair of earrings from Forever 21. Hello, $5 J Lo hoops!


What are the rules??

  1. $60 to spend after groceries, bills, mortgage/rent, etc. $60 for clothes, shoes, accessories, the Dollar Spot, etc.
  2. Can you use gift cards to increase my clothing budget?? Absolutely!
  3. What if I make extra money? Can that be used to to increase my clothing budget? YES! The goal is simply to not take more from your take home income. If you’re comfortable meeting goals without allocating that extra income towards those goals, then spend away.
  4. What about credit card points. Again, YES. If many cases, you can’t turn these into cash, so might as well get yourself something nice if you have enough of them sitting around.

Have I piqued your interest?? If so, know that I will be keeping you updated with the purchases that I make myself these coming months, along with a summary of what I spent and on what. I do plan to be savvy and do extra things to try to pad my clothing budget. What kind of things you ask?? When I polled people on Instagram, the tips and tricks for making extra money when running low at the end of the month, were numerous.

  • Sell clothes on Poshmark
  • Pick up an extra day at work
  • Donate plasma
  • Sell things on eBay
  • Make extra money pet sitting
  • Consign clothes, shoes, accessories, etc
  • Teach (yoga, crafts etc)
  • Freelance (eg on Upwork)
  • Sell, sell, sell anything and everything that is extra in your home
  • Participate in research studies
  • Work overtime
  • Use credit card points
  • Offer to babysit for friends and neighbors
  • Photography
  • Sell/pawn used items
  • Uber, Instacart, and/or Shipt
  • Market research participation
  • Review textbooks
  • Sell kids clothes online (like eBay or ThredUp)
  • Tutoring
  • Sports leagues (coach a team and charge a fee for your time)
  • Sell things on Facebook
  • Bring on new clients (for those with a business)

Now, how do you start? Last month, I wrote down everything I had spent the past three months, and I categorized my spending into categories. Your categories will vary from mine depending on your household, personal, and professional needs. I, for example, no longer have to budget for daycare, but I do have to budget for after school care. So write it all down. Then, write down what you bring home each month. Deduct every single expense (down to the penny) that you will anticipate spending that month. Then decide how much to put away in your 1) emergency fund, 2) retirement account, etc. After that, take your $60 for clothing. If you do not have $60 left over to dedicate to clothing/etc, then use some of the ways above to try to make extra money, if shopping is how you want to spend that extra money.

I checked the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and in 2017, women made the following median salaries per month:

  • 16 to 19 years: $404 weekly/$21,008 annually
  • 20 to 24 years: $508 weekly/$26,416 annually
  • 25 to 34 years: $727 weekly/$37,804 annually
  • 35 to 44 years: $877 weekly/$45,604 annually
  • 45 to 54 years: $851 weekly/$44,252 annually
  • 55 to 64 years: $869 weekly/$45,188 annually
  • 65 years and older: $800 weekly/$41,600 annually

According to statistics provided by Instagram, people I interact with on instagram (followers and people I follow) are on average 25-34 years of age, with a smaller proportion in the 35-44 years of age. Based on the data above, if you divide $37,804 by 12 months, you arrive at $3150 per month, of which 2% equals $63. As it turns out, the data I collected on Instagram was not too far off from the median salary reported in the US.

Some tips I plan to keep in mind as I strive to keep to my $60 budget: 1) keep receipts! I might buy something that fits within my $60 monthly budget, but that I change my mind about later, so I’ll roll that money over to the following month; 2) shop thrift and consignment stores; 3) accept gifts!!; 4) have clothing swaps with friends; 5) sell, sell, sell!!

So what do you think? Are you in, or are you out?? If you’re in, I look forward to going on this money saving journey with you! Let me know in the comments section if you would like a post on creating a budget, although based on my data, most of you already know how to budget, so perhaps that isn’t as great a need as finding fellowship in spending less. Onward, and save!

yours truly, dr. b (1)